Top U.S. Flatwater: Far West

Sacramento Delta: Northern California

The Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta is a complex nest of waterways that convene to deposit the effluents of the upper Sierra and lower Cascades watersheds into San Francisco Bay. It's a rich, but fragile, area of wetlands, famous for its fishing and wildlife as well as a colorful history. Much of the delta is the domain of large powerboats, which can be the bane of canoeists seeking peace and relaxation. Amy Hutzel, who leads trips for Save the Bay, a nonprofit organization that works to protect San Francisco Bay and the delta, recommends two areas for those seeking to get away from it all.

The Nature Conservancy owns a stretch of land along the Cosumnes River. The Cosumnes is the only undammed river that flows from the Sierra to run into the San Francisco Bay. According to Amy, "It's a really beautiful spot. It's tidal, so look at a tide book before you go out. It's the largest riparian habitat left in the area. You'll find beautiful willow and oak, which is great habitat for songbirds and waterbirds."

At six feet above sea level, Brannan Island State Recreation Area is possibly the highest point in the delta. The park has reserved an area off-limits to powerboats, so it's a great place to sharpen your paddling skills. The park has a camping area, making this a very economical weekend destination—great for the family.

Finally, Sandmound Flough is one of the few remaining freshwater marsh habitats in the region, and has a fascinating bird life. It can be accessed, for a small fee, at two private boat launches: Carol Boat Launch and Sams Boat Launch.


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